expected to play a major role in providing water to coastal communities and industries in
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Apr 17 - 23, 2000
In the face of miserable failures on the part of authorities
responsible for water management, prayer for rains seems to be the last resort to slake
the thirst of the people, farms, power generators and industry due to persistent water
Although the water problem is not new to the people as they raise hue
and cry for water almost every year in the summer and the authorities are immune to their
It is generally claimed with a sense of pride that Pakistan has world's
largest irrigation network yet our farmers always complain for water shortage. We have the
distinction to have Tarbela dam, one of the largest water reservoirs but neither we can
supply enough water for irrigation nor we generate electricity due to ever rising silt
level at the reservoir. We have metropolitan city of Karachi where official figure of
population is around 12 million while unofficial figure is far ahead of 15 million if
katchi abadis are also taken into account. According to an official estimate, total
requirement for Karachi is 700-800 million gallon per day (MGPD) but practically speaking
the city is getting only 435 MGD. These figures are self-explanatory of the water problems
faced by the people of Karachi. In order to take advantage of the situation, a tanker
Mafia has mushroomed, which is minting money obviously in connivance with the
administration and other officials responsible for water management. Apart from 5 official
hydrants allowed by Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB) dozens of illegal hydrants
alongside the Lyari River have emerged. These hydrants are supplying contaminated sub-soil
water of the river, which carries the sewerage water of the city. When asked how these
hydrants have been allowed to supply contaminated water spreading the deadly hepatitis in
the city, one of the officials of KWSB said that these hydrants are beyond of board's
jurisdiction. The tanker operators who are selling this contaminated water to the citizens
have been asked to paint their tankers with red to indicate that the water is not potable,
however they are least bothered and are busy in money minting. These water tankers are
sold at a cost of Rs200 for the regular buyers while they charge Rs500-600 to the casual
According to a report, out of 114 hydrants, 86 hydrants are illegal
trifling with the health and life of the citizens by supplying contaminated water to the
citizens. This luxurious business is being run in connivance with the administration and
the police and other related departments. The Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) has not
given licence to any hydrants to supply water but they are doing business without any fear
of law and the health of the general people.
The industrialists, which are generally termed as the moneyed people,
are the worst targets of the tanker Mafia. Haji Yaqub Karim, former chairman of SITE
Association of Industry, who runs a large industrial unit at the SITE industrial area,
told PAGE that industrial units are forced to buy water tankers permanently to meet
their requirement. Against the sanctioned amount of 8 MGD, the SITE industrial area is
getting only 5 MGD while the rest of the requirement is met through tankers. He is buying
water for Rs16000 per day for his unit alone. However the amount spend for water purchase
is not borne by the industry ultimately it is passed on to the consumers.
The water problem in Karachi is also aggravated by the suspension of
supply from Hub Dam. Karachi is supplied around 100 MGD from these sources.
Dry spell for the last three years persisting in the Province of
Balochistan, the water level at Hub has gone low to such an extent that it is unable to
supply a drop of water. Consequently, the entire load of water supply has been shifted to
The water crisis has also caused a provincial tussle between Sindh and
Punjab. The province of Sindh has claimed that its getting much less water of its needs
which may severally hurt harvesting of cash crops like cotton, wheat and rice in the
The storage level at major reservoirs reduced to a minimum and below
average flow in the Indus and the Jhelum, which is feared to hit Kharif crop this year.
In order to resolve the issue, it has been decided that the province of
Sindh will get an additional 7000 cusecs of water per day during the cotton-sowing season.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf gave this directive to WAPDA and Ministry of
Agriculture at a meeting held in Islamabad recently. The Ministry of Agriculture and WAPDA
were also directed to prepare the National Water Management Policy as a long term measure
to find a permanent solution to water shortages in the country.
The meeting also discussed in detail the water availability situation
in the country, approved a number of long term and short term measures to solve the
perennial water shortage problem of the country.
About 5000 cusecs of water would be supplied in Sindh from Tarbela
while rest of the water would be made available from other sources. The additional water
supply to Sindh will continue till the third week of April when the water level was
expected to improve in the rivers.
A plan was also approved to increase elevation of Mangla Dam to reclaim
the storage of the reservoir, which had been lost over the years to sedimentation and
silting. WAPDA would also carry out a study for increasing elevation of Tarbela Dam so
that its storage capacity could also be increased.
WAPDA has also been advised by the government to carry out a survey for
construction of small dams at proper locations.
The National Water Management Programme, which would be prepared under
the supervision of Minister for Agriculture Shafqat Ali Shah Jamote, would formulate
suggestions for maximum utilization of water besides finding ways and means for recycling
the effluents and saline water. It would also explore the possibilities of exploiting
under ground water resources, storing rainwater, which often goes waste and look for every
other source of water.
The meeting also decided to install Tele-metric system at all the
barrages of the country for monitoring water releases to each province.
The Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf has also asked Chairman of
WAPDA and the Indus River System Authority to explain as to what were the reasons of the
current water shortage, which had assumed an alarming proportion.
It may be recalled that the government of Sindh had demanded that
during the early Kharif season when cotton would be sown in the province it should be
supplied an additional 10,000 cusecs of water a day.
The demand was however not acceptable to the province of Punjab and it
agreed to supply only 3000 cusecs a day of water over and above the quantity of water
presently being supplied to the province.
Efficient irrigation system is pre-requisite for agriculture
production. It provides food security against the vagaries of monsoon and enables the
cropping intensity to increase. Despite having a very good irrigation canal network in the
world, Pakistan still suffers from waste of a huge amount of water in the irrigation
process. To improve the irrigation system various measures such as canal remodelling and
rehabilitation on-farm water management, small dam schemes, and installation of private
tube-wells. SCRAP tubewells, hill torrents development management have been taken.
Main programme/projects to be completed for improvement of irrigation
system include surface irrigation, drainage and reclamation programme. Survey,
investigation, research, flood protection programme and on farm water management. These
projects will be completed with the assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other
donor agencies. Similarly to upgrade irrigation system provincial program for
construction, extension, remodelling and rehabilitation of canal system and their length
are also underway in the four provinces of Pakistan. With the completion of the programmes
the cropped area will increase.
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
has sounded a note of warning that shortage of water is likely to emerge as the most
pressing problem in Pakistan in the coming years. At present, 600 million people all over
the world are deprived of clean water for drinking. In the next 25 years, this number is
estimated to rise three billion. The concept of life without pure water is impossible. But
this is raising its head as a great issue in Pakistan. ESCAP has indicated that freshwater
withdrawals from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, underground aquifers and other sources have
increased more in Asia during the past century than in other parts of the world. From 1950
to 1995, water use in Asia increased by almost 300 per cent. Agriculture accounts for the
major part of water withdrawals, mainly for irrigation. In the more industrialized
countries, agriculture accounts for up to 50 per cent of withdrawals but this figure rises
to more than 90 per cent in all South Asian countries except Bhutan.
The growing recognition that the world is beginning to feel the first
pangs of a chronic and systematic water crisis which is global issue. It is identified
that water diversions for irrigation have had devastating effects in Central Asia, with
the Aral Sea shrinking to a fraction of its original size. According to that report the
Huang He (Yellow River) did not run into the sea for more than 220 days in a year.
It is estimated that in the next two decades water use by humans will
increase by about 40 per cent and that 17 per cent more water will be needed to grow the
food for the growing populations. While the water demand for industry and energy will also
grow rapidly. Increase in the demand for irrigation water is likely to be matched by
increase of 20 per cent and 70 per cent in the demand for water for industry and municipal
Fresh water is becoming precious with every passing day. Only 2.5 per
cent of the world's water are not salty and of that two third is locked up in the icecaps
and glaciers. Of the rest, some is in areas too remote for human access. While the
remaining 80 per cent, about three-quarters comes via monsoons and floods and cannot be
captured for use by people. What is left is less than 0.08 of 1 per cent of the total
water on the planet, the report observed.
The ever increasing shortage of water, shrinking water capacity of the
existing water reservoirs and unabated population growth will inevitably lead to find some
practical solutions for this perennial issue.
Currently, water levels at Tarbela and Mangla have touched a record low
in the recent years, as the inflow of water in Indus and Jehlum continues to remain dismal
with no sign of improvement.
The level at Tarbela was reached 1336.4 feet, the lowest since the
summer of 1996 and barely 16-feet above the dead level of the reservoir. Four years ago,
the water level had dropped to the dead band causing considerable damage to the turbines
as silt had seeped through the filters. Low inflow of water in Tarbela has impaired the
generation capability of the powerhouse, eroding to 1,371 MW from 2021 in April last year.
The situation at Mangla is equally grim. The inflow in Jehlum has never dropped to the
level of 1200 cusecs. The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that last
year; the inflow of water in Mangla at this time was 22,000 cusecs. This year, it has been
about 10,000 cusecs less than what it had been last year. Official monitoring water
inflows and outflows are not encouraging and it is expected that the situation may improve
in the second half of next month.
According to an study, construction of smaller dams at the strategic
locations specially in the province of Sindh and other parts of the country can resolve
the issue to a greater extent besides producing cheaper electricity. The much publicized
Kala Bagh Dam where huge money running in billions was spend on its feasibility report has
to be shelved due to strong opposition from political quarters. Yet another 21 feasibility
reports of smaller dams at various locations in the country are readily available. These
dams have been identified as Neelam Jhelum, Matiltan (Ushu) Allai Khwar, Khan Khwar,
SummernGah, Batal Khwar, Daral Khwar, Ranolia, Golen Gol, New Bong Escape, Shishi,
Malakand-III, Rajdhani, Main Line Lower UCC, Sai, Nomal, Jinnah, Taimsa C.J, Link (Tail),
Guddu and Renalla. These dams if completed besides strengthening our irrigation system
will produce around 5,556 megawatt of power.
Although feasibility studies for installation of desalination units
alongside the coastal belt of Karachi have been completed yet the cost of desalination
process is too high to afford especially in our country. According to an estimate Rs300
will be cost for producing 1000 gallons of water. Some multinational companies like Hub
Power Project have installed Desalination units for cooling purposes of the project as
well as for consumption of the staff. However the per capita income in Pakistan does not
allow going for such an option. The feasibility report prepared by KWSB however suggests
installation of small and medium desalination units to be installed from KPT to Clifton,
Defense, Korangi Creek. The scheme has also been floated to donor agencies for funding.
World Bank and OECF Japan are examining the project for inclusion in their financial plan
either solo or as co-financiers. According to another view desalinating sea-water now
costs far less than in the past and this technology is expected to play a major role in
providing water to coastal communities and industries in the future. But it is energy
intensive and only rarely can it be cheap enough for food crops.
There is no second opinion that Pakistan is an agriculture-based
economy. Pakistan has not yet fully tapped its agriculture potentials. More lands have to
be brought under cultivation to become self sufficient in food and also to earn foreign
exchange through this natural resource. In order to meet this cherished goal, arrangements
will have to be made to ensure adequate and timely supply of water to the farms. In order
to improve our irrigation network, the present government has done a marvellous job
recently carried out the much needed 'Bhal Safai' scheme. Which would hopefully help
smooth supply of water to the remotest parts of the agriculture lands plus provide safety
against breaches of canals and bunds. However in order to realize the best results out of
the irrigation network an effective monitoring is also required to check corruption in
supply of the precious water to the farmers. Like cities, the corruption has also started
rooting into our rural life. According to an estimate illegal sale of irrigation water is
running over Rs20 million during the cropping seasons. This sort of corruption not only
deprived the deserving farmers of their genuine need of water but also results in
artificial crisis of water. An anti-corruption force in the agriculture sector is also
needed to save the precious water in our canals.
Water Availability Million Acre-Feet (MAF) at Canal Head during 1998-99
Position of Bulk Water Supply & Demand
1985 to 2000